“Good evening, Salaam Alaikum.”
Anaheim police chief Raul Quezada introduced himself to Muslims gathered at a forum yesterday with the dual greeting. In company with FBI investigators and his own top brass, Quezada led discussions aimed at addressing numerous concerns facing local Muslims. Last week, somebody left a bullet-riddled English-language Qur'an at the doorstep of an Islamic fashion store in Anaheim. The next day, in an unrelated incident, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married Muslim couple, killed 14 people in the San Bernardino Massacre. Following the tragedy, Republic front-runner Donald Trump called for banning all Muslims from entering the United States. Troubled times, indeed.
The forum took place at the Brookhurst Community Center in West Anaheim, not too far from where Farook's family had lived in the city for a number of years. Records obtained by the Weekly show that Farook's father rented an apartment at the nearby Tara Hill complex from September 1997 to January 2001. Anaheim school records confirm that a young Syed Farook attended elementary school at Gauer and Magnolia before enrolling at Brookhurst Junior High (where I was once a Spartan, too) during those years. Without mentioning this background, Anaheim police nevertheless gave an update on the San Bernardino Massacre investigation. “Currently there is no known connection to Anaheim,” deputy chief Julian Harvey said.
David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI's LA field office, addressed the mass shooting probe while trying to reassure that his agency would be vigilant in protecting innocent Muslims from retaliatory attacks. “You're in an election season and people are going to say very bombastic things,” Bowdich said. “Hang in there, it's going to be okay. We're here for you.”
Anaheim police also offered important updates into the bullet-riddled Qur'an left at the doorstep of Al-Farah Islamic Fashion last Tuesday. “To this date, we haven't found any video evidence,” Captain Jarret Young said. “We also have not identified any suspects.” The only piece of evidence is the copy of the Qur'an itself. The Orange County crime lab is currently looking at it to unearth any possible forensic leads.
Quezada's men invited members of the Muslim community to cooperate with them in all regards be it reporting suspected hate crimes or keeping an eye on suspicious activity. “See something, say something” was the catch phrase of the evening. Police told the forum to be on the lookout for unattended bags left in public, people measuring buildings or monuments and even sudden changes in appearance of their acquaintances.
A few questions came from the audience after law enforcement presentations wrapped up. One man asked about determining credible threats against his mosque and its members. Another wondered if private armed guards or police protection would be best for an Islamic education center he feared could be targeted. After the forum ended, Quezada acknowledged to the Weekly that patrols have been stepped up city wide but also definitely in Anaheim's Little Arabia district.
“If I see something and say something, for only me it's only a suspicion,” Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, tells the Weekly. He worries about how potentially ruinous that could be for someone wrongly suspected but he thinks the message should go to all communities, not just Muslims, nor Islamic terrorism. “We have to be all together because this is a dangerous time,” Siddiqi adds. “Our scripture teaches us that saving one life is saving all humanity.”
Siddiqi reports that there's been an uptick of threatening phone calls to the Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove. It's a common sentiment among those who turned out for the forum. “We're affected as citizens of the Southern Californian community about what happened in San Bernardino but we're also affected because there's this anxiety about a backlash,” says Imam Mohammed Faqih of Anaheim's Islamic Institute of Orange County.”I'm very happy that law enforcement is being proactive and reassuring the community that there's no need to panic or worry.”
Imam Faqih also stresses than the San Bernardino Massacre doesn't define Muslims or Islam. “Criminal minds and terrorism don't have a religion,” he says “It's very unfortunate that somebody who proclaims or professes the religion that I believe in has done this but we can only work together.”
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!